30 Is the New Black

I am still twenty-something, but I am closer to thirty now than I ever have been. And to be clear, that is very close. When I starting researching the topic of turning 30, I came across a TEDTalk that has sparked a great deal of conversation. It is called “Why 30 Is Not the New 20” given by the Clinical Psychologist who specializes in Twenty-Somethings, Dr. Meg Jay. In the talk, she wants to convey to twenty-somethings that this decade of you life totally counts. It is not a time for waiting for your life to begin, it is a major developmental period. I read a number of follow up articles all talking about the twenty-somethings of today (considered a part of the Millennial Generation, ugh.) and how we are selfish and lazy and have nothing to show for our lives.

Do you want to know what a person approaching 30 really needs to hear? That they have nothing to show for themselves. As though this was not a difficult enough time.

Reading all of these articles about twenty-somethings and turning thirty made me much angrier than I expected. First off, I am totally pissed that I am considered a part of the Millennial Generation. I refuse to accept this as I hate those kids as much as everyone else does. I am aware that I am not quite a GenXer, but I am not a Millennial either. This is a whole other topic that I will address in a future post as I am a little to heated to write about it now.

I am also irritated about how flippant people seem to be about us twenty-somethings. Yes, many of us are currently living back at home with our parents. Let’s not pretend for a second that this is an awesome set up and I am loving it. I am not Will Farrell’s character in Wedding Crashers. I hate it, but it is the rational responsible choice for me right now. I am trying to save up money, pay off my debt and keep a decent amount in savings. I, like many in my generation, am drowning in student loans; because, none of us were prepared for this amount of debt the day we graduated from college and entered the real world. Especially when it all went a little like this:

“Congratulations, here’s you diploma, better go get a job. Oh yeah, and here is the bill for the tens of thousands of dollars you owe us, don’t worry, you can pay this back over the next thirty years. One more thing, turns out we destroyed the economy while you were away at school, so… best of luck. P.S. We are also cleaning out Social Security, so there will be nothing left when you retire.”

Screw you, Baby Boomers. Screw you.

I am in my late twenties. I have by no means “made it” and I will not have everything I want out of life by the time I am thirty. I will not have much that I want out of life by the time I am thirty. I will have an education, which I spent exactly half of my twenties working on. I will have the beginnings of a career in a field I am deeply passionate about, which is what I spent (most of) the other half on. I will also have gone through some serious rough patches that momentarily derailed me. I will have known what it means to not be able to pay my rent, to have bills piling up and no money to pay them. I will know how to find odd jobs quickly to scrounge the money I need to make through a month. And how to ask for help (yes, from my wonderful parents) when I really need it. I will have known what it takes to pull myself out of serious financial debt. I will have known what it means to be clinically depressed and what it takes to come out on the other side. I will have had a series of relationships great and small and have a better idea of what I am actually looking for in a permanent partner. I will be on my way to having a career that I will love, not a job that I hate. Though I will certainly know what it is to have a job(s) that I hate.

If you are looking at my tax returns, it probably looks like I am one of those twenty-something slacker kids who can’t seem to get her life together. I do not have much to show for my twenties, but that is because what I have accomplished in my twenties is not necessarily quantifiable. You call us the slacker generation. Just wait. I may be sitting here in my bedroom in my parent’s house, working multiple jobs, none of which are in my field, but I am coming. I am not lazy, I am plotting my next move. I haven’t gone after what I want because I have seen people try and fail and I will not make those same mistakes (lack of preparation and financing being the primary issues). I know exactly what I want and I know exactly how to get it.

Turning thirty sounded scary before I started researching for this piece. I, too, felt I had nothing to show for my twenties. What I have learned is that I do not need to prove myself to the previous generations. I don’t want to accomplish what they have accomplished because what the hell have they accomplished? If you have everything you ever wanted by the time you are thirty, 1. What are you going to do for the remaining 2/3 of your lives? and 2. You can’t have wanted all that much out of life if you were able to get it all in ONE DECADE. Do you want to know what the previous generations have accomplished? They have destroyed our economy. They have destroyed our environment. And now they are trying to make us look like the bad guys? No worries, you all feel free to retire, soak up the rest of Social Security, and we will clean up the mess you left for us.

I may have nothing to show for the past ten years of my life (other than my multiple degrees), but check back in ten years. Thirty is not scary because that is when the hard work will start to pay off. That is when people will finally see what we are capable of. That is when the previous generations will see what we have been up to for the last ten years.

To see the TEDTalk:

To read some more on the topic:

NPR: TED Radio Hour: The Next Greatest Generation Hosted by Guy Raz

New York Times: What Is It About 20-Somethings? by By Robin Marantz Henig

Toronto Star: Why 30 Is the New 20 by Sarah Barmak

Huffington Post: I’m 30… Now What? by Andrew Cristi

AskMen: Turning 30 by Peter Hoare

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